“You know too much about your subject”. No, it’s not something any of us got told too often at school! But when it comes to a big speech or pitch it can be a real issue. That’s because clear, simple, benefit-led messaging will help you speak more persuasively. And too much detail does the very opposite.
Maybe you’re selling an idea, a product or a new service?
Or you’re speaking at a conference desperate to say something that covers everything your audience may want to hear?
You might be giving a speech about a friend at a party, and start with a list of everything you want to say and all the stories you want to tell.
That’s the moment to stop.
If you want to speak more persuasively, the key is not to cover all the points. Or to try to answer every possible question that might be asked by every single member of your audience. Or to begin by explaining all the things you are about to say.
If you take that approach, you’ll most likely speak in long lists. And lists don’t work because:
1) Nobody will remember them all.
2) They are, quite frankly, pretty dull!
If you meet a friend for a drink and they start the conversation by listing everything they are about to tell you, you’ll start looking at your watch pretty quickly. So why would that be any different when you’re speaking to a bigger crowd?
But with all that knowledge at your disposal, how do you decide where to focus? Simple:
Here’s the simple tip to help you speak more persuasively
Imagine there’s a reporter at the event (for some of you, having reporters at your event requires no imagination at all!). Then imagine the best possible write-up they could give your speech in tomorrow’s paper. And then write the headline you’d like to sit at the very top of that article.
And that, in a nutshell, is your key message. It should provide the focus for everything you say – from the structure you choose to the tone you take.
In almost every case, that headline will be a benefit for the audience to take away. Or an action. So, if you’re launching a new utilities app it might be: “Finally – a straightforward way to save money on your electricity bill“.
If you’re updating your team at the end of the year it might be: “Thanks to you we are in a good place. Now we need new ideas for our clients in the new year“.
If you’re presenting an award it might be: “Our organisation is all about positive change and this award recognises someone who encapsulates positivity and change“.
The headline becomes the brief for everything you do from that point on. It’s a way of choosing your content and avoiding lists. It gives you a clear idea of the ‘hook’ you could use to grab attention and prioritise your key message.
Knowing a huge amount about your subject isn’t really a weakness. But it can get in the way of speaking clearly, relevantly and empathetically. And, after all, those are the qualities that separate the great speakers from the good ones!